Save Lida Lee Tall School


ANY MARYLANDER concerned about the quality of education in this state needs to know about the Lida Lee Tall Learning Resources Center, the designated research and demonstration elementary school for Maryland.

Tucked away on Towson State University's campus, Lida Lee Tall is a Maryland gem -- a model school where the best of what is new in teaching methods and learning materials is tested for the benefit of school children statewide. Teachers who want to discover the latest in proven teaching techniques, college students with a glimmer of teaching in their eyes, or those curious about the status of educational excellence study Lida Lee Tall, where some of Maryland's best efforts in education are showcased.

But now, because of a recommendation by the governor's budget analyst, Lida Lee Tall may be closed.

Closing the school may be tempting to state leaders who need to trim the budget, but this parent and taxpayer argues that keeping the school open could save the state money in the long run. Effectively used, Lida Lee Tall can show state leaders how to stretch the educational tax dollar.

Lida Lee Tall is an effective school, one where even the most school-phobic kid gets excited about learning, where parents are involved in the schooling of their children and teachers are given the freedom to tailor lessons to their students' needs, abilities and interests. Educators across the state should study this winning combination and adapt it to their own systems.

When new developments in education are discovered in our universities or brainstormed in curriculum offices, let the new ideas be tested at Lida Lee Tall first, where ideal laboratory conditions are already in place. (The school's student population reflects the ethnic, cultural and economic diversity of the Baltimore metropolitan area.)

When school superintendents consider purchasing new materials for their school systems, test them at Lida Lee Tall first rather than trying them out systemwide, a financially riskier idea.

The best of what happens at Lida Lee Tall, if adapted by school districts around the state, could benefit every child in Maryland. In an age when we need to fortify our future citizens for economic and social responsibility, we cannot afford to short-change their education now.

No one will argue that the state budget shouldn't be cut -- most of us are pretty nervous about government deficits. And most of us are willing to do our part to keep state services going -- perhaps by raising the sales tax, making a voluntary contribution on our income tax returns or driving on rougher roads.

And all of us expect state leaders to do their part -- by cutting out the frills in their own budgets and demonstrating sound, creative thinking and compassionate decision-making.

But don't cut essential services. And don't close Lida Lee Tall. Used wisely, the school can demonstrate how to stretch the educational tax dollar. And Maryland's government leaders can demonstrate their commitment to education, both in good times and bad.

Judy Reilly writes from Baltimore.

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